chapter  3
18 Pages

The Immersion of the Mermaid

A heuristic autoethnographic approach to working therapeutically with active imagination and traumatic loss
WithRachel Mallen

This chapter is concerned with the Jungian concept of active imagination as a medium of working therapeutically with traumatic loss. This chapter appears in two parts to emphasise the very real, fragmentary process of trauma. In Part 1, the author explores her personal journey as the mermaid and her interweaving experience from immersion into the imaginal realm of trauma, to resurfacing in the material realm in constructing a narrative of coming to terms with and processing trauma. The mermaid metaphor provides a bridge between the two worlds. Part 2 will consider the wider social context in relation to the author’s experience, looking at client interactions in a collective sense of working toward integration and reconnection following trauma, and a sense of being ‘torn from the communal fabric of being-in-time’.

Phenomenological methodology, i.e. heuristic autoethnography enables a depth of reflection interlinking personal and collective experiences of trauma, alongside authentic depiction and acknowledgement of the temporal experience of being human. The six stages of heuristic research will be addressed throughout this chapter. This methodology facilitates ‘seeing with fresh eyes’ for the researcher practitioner through interactions with others and the external world. It is hoped that this chapter will assist other practitioners to enhance their competency to be present with clients experiencing such phenomena.